Having spent most of her life labelled as ‘painfully shy’, it wasn’t until her late 30’s that Kerry Beazleigh was diagnosed with severe anxiety. Finally, she had context to understand the feelings that threatened to consume her – and she could begin to move forward.
“It made a huge difference once I knew I had anxiety. Before, it had total control over me, and I had very little chance to succeed against it – if any. Finally, I felt as though I had a fighting chance.”
While Kerry understands that anxiety will always be part of her life, she is no longer at the mercy of it. She has found a way to sit with the discomfort without letting it dictate her life.
“I used to believe everything my mind was telling me; I was completely paralysed by anxiety so many times. Now, my logical brain can talk me through it and say, ‘okay, this is most likely just anxiety, even though it doesn’t feel like it’.”
While encouraging her son to pursue his artistic talents, Kerry was surprised to discover the healing power of art in her own life.
“I feel like painting transports me to another world. The anxiety still exists but now there is something more powerful that can override it. I can focus on each stroke and how much I love the feeling. Art breaks the hold anxiety has over me.”
“Painting has also helped me develop skills that are useful in managing my anxiety. I use painting as a form of exposure therapy. I find it very difficult to make decisions within my life, but having to choose which colours to paint with and where to put them on the canvas helps me become comfortable with that process.”
|"Trepidation - Racoon" by Kerry Beazleigh on display at the 2022 Recovered Futures Art Exhibition.
Kerry’s transformation proves that while anxiety cannot be ‘cured’, it can be managed – and success is the cumulative result of a series of ‘little wins’.
“I’ve got so much further to go, but occasionally I can step back and go, ‘wow, this is amazing – I never thought I’d be able to do this’. It gives me hope for the bigger things that I’m struggling with too. I can reflect and say, ‘okay I’m not succeeding at this today, but I never thought I would succeed at the other things either and I did’.”
Kerry says there is much to be gained from participating in the Recovered Futures Art Exhibition – especially learning from the insights of her fellow artists.
“Witnessing other people’s struggles and reading their stories makes you feel less alone and helps you understand that mental illness is fairly common. Seeing the way other artists relate to their illness shows me other ways of interacting with my anxiety.”
Always mindful of where she started on her mental health journey, Kerry knows the value of seeking help. She recalls the pivotal moment she reached out as a major turning point in her life.
“One of the hardest things I ever did was make that first phone call to get help. I hung up several times and had so many thoughts going through my head. I would love for the discussion of mental health to be normalised; for people to go once a year for a mental health check-in with their doctor.”
Approaching her future with newfound confidence and continued courage, the change in Kerry is unmistakable. Once clouded by uncertainty, Kerry now has hope for the first time in her life.
“Even though anxiety is something I’ll always have, at least now I stand a chance. Each day, I was controlled by my anxiety and had no idea that life could be any different. As hard as it was to make that first phone call, it really was the best thing I ever did for myself.”